LOCAL ACADEMICS BEING DISCRIMINATED BY FOREIGN HEADS IN UNIVERSITIES

I am a Singaporean who is working overseas as an academic. I did my PhD in the US and was a university “gold” medalist in Singapore. Based on my personal experience, it appears to me that foreigners are often preferred over Singaporeans in the hiring process.

When I was on the job market, a bunch of NUS search committee, five of them in total, gave me “Kangaroo” interview with no intention hiring me. As I recall, the search committee was made up of foreigners, coming from China, India and elsewhere. The head of the search committee was a Chinese, who at that time was himself a recent hire.

Needless to say, the committee ended up hiring a bunch of foreign newbies.

The interesting thing was, the head of the search committee had no intention of building up the department at NUS. I later found out that shortly after our meeting, he quit NUS and left the country.

Just to be clear, I want to return to Singapore, to look after my aging parents and to be where I grew up in. However, with foreigners heading departments and even universities, I am afraid that is not going to happen.

Besides, NUS and NTU are incredibly unstable places for an academic career, especially for a Singaporean. Just pick a faculty and look at the staffing-list over the past 10 years of so, around the time of the Tony Tan “regime-shift”. One thing you will likely find is an incredibly high attrition rate of academics, our local academics are especially the ones with a target on their backs.

So, while university alums from various cohorts often share common experiences about their old professors, our local graduates merely several years apart were probably taught by different sets of professors. It is like having a new NUS or NTU every few years. There is hardly any common thread. Is this really what we want?

Finally, why would our foreign academic professors be keen to establish good relationships with students, and at the very least, do their best in teaching when they know they are not going to box themselves up in a tiny red dot for long?

We have foreign academics, now making up the majority of full-time tenure-track academics in Singapore, who can’t teach, who have no incentive to teach, and worse, have no desire to teach even if incentivized. Unfortunately, these are the kind of people our government would grovel to have them over.

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